Communication between the ones you love is paramount. The relationship formed through conversations and interaction creates years of emotional connection that can’t be replaced for the world. However, if you can’t communicate with your family, your world takes a drastic turn, and your life becomes as an outsider. In Chris Overton’s new film The Silent Child, a young girl is faced with isolation until she finds her place in the world.

Libby (brilliantly played by rising star Maisie Sly) is a young deaf girl, the youngest of three and alone in her family. They believe they can communicate with her through lip reading, but they are unwilling to see the divide that still creates. In an attempt to get Libby prepared for schooling, her mother Sue (Rachel Fielding) hires a teacher who has a background in deafness Joanne (Rachel Shenton), to help Libby become social. It’s not long before Joanne forms an unbreakable bond with Libby, just because she’s willing to take the time to know who Libby really is.

If you connect this story to the inspirational story of Anne Sullivan and Hellen Keller, you are correct. This is a modern retelling of that story, with just as much heart and encouragement. Teachers are a cornerstone of our environment, and they don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve. For Joanne, she doesn’t see a broken child, she sees a silent one wanting to make her mark in the world. She sees the potential in Libby, one that may not be the majority, but it one that is just as valid and important. 

All most people want in the world is to be heard and understood, but when you have something blocking that, like a limited avenue of communication, it prevents any personal growth. One then finds tranquility in solitude, closing the doors of our openness onto ourselves. The way Overton decides to show this isolation is heartbreaking. When dealing with a movie about a deaf child, you realize how important sound is to the world around us. The choices made for the noises in a scene, or lack there of, really impacts the viewer on just how isolated Libby is in her world.

The frustration that you feel, not only from Libby’s isolation, but also from the family’s awkwardness is unnerving. We may all have those family members that we are not that close to, but to have them in the same room with us and not have any way to communicate with them, effectively acting as if they aren't even there, is heartbreaking. The audience becomes aware just how important communication is to forming lasting bonds between people.

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I can’t image being a parent and not having the ability to talk to my child, on top of not wanting them to be “damaged” in any way. That’s a harsh word, I guess different is more appropriate, but that still doesn’t change the fact that not many people know how to deal with that. Parents want nothing the but the best for their child, and when you are prevented from providing that for them one can become defensive. It’s not that Sue doesn’t want her daughter to have a normal life, on the contrary she not only wants her to but wants her to be treated just like everyone else.

The sad thing is, however, that in trying to create a so called normal life for her daughter, Sue is in fact isolating her even further. It’s heartbreaking to watch on multiple accounts, from the desire to connect to your daughter to treating differences as anything other than an abnormality. Just because a person does not have full functioning sensory organs does not mean they are prevented from living a regular life. It’s a lesson in diversity that we all should study.

In a time when our world is breaking apart from differences instead of embracing them, The Silent Child is an important film. It showcases a topic that we might be scared to talk about in such a way that you not only understand both sides, but have a desire to mend the fractured situation. The story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan inspired generations of young people, it’s Libby and Joanne’s turn.

The film creates a sense of hope, that we can conquer even the most difficult of hardships. It may take patience and hard work, but it’s not difficult to find those who are willing to guide us into a better life. We can accomplish anything if we open our hearts to the opportunities that present themselves. We can also close ourselves off to new experiences and connections if we stay stagnant and judging as we were in the past.

We as a society can be afraid of the unknown, but in reality the unknown is how we are each able to grow into the person we are supposed to become. We are individuals, strong characters that can accomplish anything if we have encouragement, that teachers are all around us if we are just willing to find them. I can’t express how inspiring this short film was, and that I hope The Silent Child can have similar impacts on others.

 

Written by Lisa Mejia